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I attended my first board meeting in 2019. The room had lawyers, surgeons, and hedge fund managers. Yikes!

Here’s how it went down.

In 2019 I was invited to present at a board meeting for a hospital foundation that’s close to my heart. This was unlike any other meeting I’ve attended. It’s almost been 2 years since the meeting, but I still remember these 5 lessons.

Lesson 1: Showmanship is for amateurs

Out of the 19 people present, the most accomplished were the most humble. Even during times of intense disagreement, there was no interruption or loud voices. No one was trying to outdo each other. People were relaxed yet confident.

Lesson 2: Succinct + Assertive equals = Executive Presence

The attendees were articulate, assertive, and unsurprisingly commanded attention. They almost had an uncanny ability to remain poise. and share information while remaining succinct and to the point. The poise really stood out.

Lesson 3: Great leaders listen and ask questions

This room was no exception. Everyone was a good listener and focused on the topic on hand. Remember, these individuals are used to leading organizations, hospitals, and courtrooms, but it was the way they listened to each other that set them apart. None of them was shy to question someone’s opinion or ask a “basic” question. Their insatiable curiosity is what made the conversation so engaging.

Lesson 4: Solid agenda = solid meeting

The meeting stuck to an agenda. Everyone had access to it in advance. This resulted in a good flow of conversation with minimal tangents. No one moved off an agenda item before a “resolution” was achieved. This was key.

Lesson 5: A-players stay focussed

Despite busy schedules and competing priorities, I didn’t see a single person look at their phone or work on a laptop during the meeting. People were attentive, asking questions, disagreeing respectfully yet assertively. The meeting started on time, ended on time.

Walking out of that board room confirmed my notion that highly accomplished leaders don’t try to “people-please”, they come in with a purpose to do a job, do it well, and go home. They thrive on leading companies, teams, and people but most importantly what they’re really after is making an impact. That’s the real game!

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